STEAM curriculum adds ducks

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COLUMBIA - The 2018-2019 school year is wrapping up for students in Columbia, but they're still learning important skills.

Jefferson Middle School is transitioning into a STEAM school by having students care for 11 baby ducks the last few weeks.

STEAM adds the letter “A” to STEM, science, technology, engineering and math. The “A” can stand for art or agriculture. That’s where the school’s ducks come in.

Mike Szydlowski, the science coordinator for Columbia Public Schools, is in charge of the ducks.

“The ducks were kind of a coincidence,” Szydlowski said. “This year, we had a community member say, 'Hey, fertile duck eggs, would you like to try?' And we thought, you know, let's do it.”

The school is testing the waters before they add chickens to one of the STEAM elective classes next year.

In one of the new electives, students will hatch and care for baby chickens and learn important skills.

Jefferson Middle School will focus its classes on projects and hands-on work through these new elective classes. The main goal of STEAM is to engage kids in the classroom and to help them with their future career paths, according to Michelle Baumstark, community relations director for CPS.

“I think it definitely will help you determine where your areas of interest lie, it gives you experience in lots of different areas,” Baumstark said. “The ultimate goal is for students to graduate, to be college and career-ready, and the best way to do that is to give them lots of opportunities for exposure, and to be able to explore and learn about different things.”

Right now, the school is transitioning into teaching the STEAM curriculum and will start the full program in the 2020-2021 school year.